I don’t think there are any of us here who think a functioning civil society is not a worthy goal. Nor do any of us suppose a functioning civil society doesn’t cost money. So all any of us would really disagree about is who should pay for it, and how much.
The large (or largish) western nations that display the most obviously functional civil societies all collect in tax, all in, a percentage of GDP right around 40 percent (and sometimes a few points higher).
The U.S., all in (federal, state & local) collects about 27 percent.
It’s true that we fund a significant chunk of our health care outside the tax system. But it is also true that a huge chunk of the private money we spend on health care is sucked up by profit (and for-profit admin). If we extended Medicare to all citizens, and funded every dollar of the cost with an additional dollar of tax, I don’t know how much that increase our taxes as a percentage of GDP, but I’m pretty sure it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent.
Of course we also spend vast amounts of money on our military: a level of spending close to which none of those other nations comes near.
Civil societies foster social cohesion with collective institutions that provide for the common good: roads, public transport, schools, fire and police protection, prisons, regulators to prevent illegal market manipulation and pollution, R&D into energy to replace fossil fuels, parks, etc. And of course the military.
Leaving out how we ought to provide our citizens with health insurance- which is a large and important argument- the political conversation in this country isn’t, despite all the endless rhetoric that assume exactly the case, between free-market capitalists on the one hand and socialist five-year-planners on the other. It isn’t really even about whether or not we should be using taxes to foster social cohesion with collective institutions that provide for the common good.
It’s only really about which institutions we should spend our tax money on in order to foster social cohesion.
Those of us on the so-called liberal left think the best way to spend the money is on things like roads, schools, public transport, fire and police protection, regulation, R& D, parks. Mostly soft domestic, gentle stuff like that. Maybe because we are, at heart, rather soft and gentle people.
Whereas those on the so-called conservative right prefer toll roads, private schools, no regulation, generally as little evidence of government funded civil society as possible, EXCEPT…
The military. Which is a HUGE provider of education, of R&D, of housing, of health care, of upward mobility, and of collective purpose and pride and personal and emotion identification with, and pride in, national purpose and identity.
Viewed as a collective economy, as a community, as a source of collective action and collective culture, the U.S. military is as socialist an institution as exists on this planet.
Of course what the military isn’t, quite patently isn’t, is democratic. Which leads me to the conclusion that the only reason the right doesn’t mind the idea of pouring money into the collective society of the military, in all its socialist aspects. Because the quid pro quo that we get for spending all those trillions on all those soldiers and sailors and pilots, and all their families and support staff and the whole industrial complex that provides for them is… obedience.
Yeah, I know, we get to sleep safe in our beds as well. Which brings us to the next point:
It’s kinda hard to justify such a humongous military without a humongous enemy, or at least without whipping up a humongous amount of fear that a humongous enemy just might be out there. Somewhere.
And fear on its own sometimes isn’t even enough. Sometimes you just got to pull those triggers. Which not only means we then can justify buying a whole lot more gear, but also always has the added advantage of guaranteeing a whole pack of enemies we often never had in the first place.
The right don’t feel comfortable with a welfare society, because they don’t see the payoff. You spend all that money building roads and schools and shit, and paying teachers and firemen and regulators out the whazoo, and what do you get in return? People who fucking think for themselves! And vote quite enough of the time for fucking Democrats!
But if you spend the money instead on a warfare society (which of course includes huge amounts of what in any other context would be stone welfare), when you say jump they fucking jump.
That’s the kind of ‘civil’ society the right can buy into. And the only kind. The trouble is, of course, that it isn’t civil at all.